Sreesanth and the two other arrested Rajasthan Royal (RR) players have "confessed" to spot-fixing in IPL matches, the Delhi Police claimed today even as the role of more players whose names have cropped up during interrogation could be probed.
Six bookies were held in Tamil Nadu in connection with another IPL betting racket and one each picked up in Mumbai and Delhi.
11 bookies were arrested earlier along with cricketers Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila.
Lending credence to reports that they may have been lured or sucked into a honey-trap, Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar said Indian pacer Sreesanth and his friend Jiju were with women when they were arrested.
"Yes", replied Kumar on being asked whether the three cricketers have confessed to spot-fixing.
"They had no option but to do so," he said, adding, "There is solid evidence against them and we are confident of getting their convictions," he said.
Lawyers of the three cricketers denied their involvement and claimed that they were falsely implicated as part of a deep-rooted conspiracy.
The role of more players whose names cropped up during interrogation of the arrested cricketers and bookies in the IPL spot-fixing scandal could be probed, police said.
Delhi Police is also likely to probe some more IPL matches in the current season even as Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandila along with 11 other arrested bookies were subjected to interrogation by its Special Cell.
It has also emerged that the arrested bookies tried to lure three players, including two foreigners, with the help of Chandila, to be part of the spot-fixing racket. The players-- Brad Hogg, Kevon Cooper and Siddharth Trivedi-- however, spurned their invite to join a party at Jaipur for clinching the deal, the sources said.
Sources said Sreeshant, Chavan and Amit Singh, a cricketer-turned-bookie, broke into tears when they were being grilled by the police sleuths.
From the investigations so far since the arrests yesterday, Chandila is emerging as the main accused among the three cricketers while Chandresh Patel is believed to be the key link among the bookies.
It was Ajit Chandila, arrested Wednesday night from Mumbai along with his Rajasthan Royals colleagues Sreesanth and Ankeet Chavan, who reportedly told police that he tried to rope in two more players at the behest of bookies who had promised to offer him Rs.20 lakh for bowling a fixed over. But the two players refused.
"During questioning, Chandila told police that he met bookies at Country Club in Manesar (adjoining Delhi) on April 6. In the meeting, the bookies asked him to rope in more players for spot fixing. He gave two names and the bookies asked him to bring them to a party where the deal could be discussed," police sources told IANS.
However, the two cricketers refused to attend the party.
Chandila also reportedly told interrogators that in the 2012 IPL season, the last two overs of a match between Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals might have been fixed.
Although the three accused confessed to their crimes, their families and lawyers maintained they were innocent.
Deepak Prakash, Sreesanth's lawyer, said: "Sreesanth has been falsely or mistakenly arrested. They (Delhi Police) have got some wrong information or mistakenly arrested him."
After a day of intense interrogation and investigation, Delhi Police sources said they stumbled on the spot fixing racket after they recorded the phone calls of aides of Tiger Memon with bookies. They also found out that one of the players was told to rope in others in the sordid saga.
Amidst media reports that Rajasthan Royals co-owner Shilpa Shetty, her husband Raj Kundra and captain Rahul Dravid would also be questioned, police denied calling them for the probe.
The police said they were able to trail the sleazy connection when they started to intercept the calls of aides of Tiger Memon, who is said to be in Dubai, since March 2013.
They also said that escorts were used to lure the players into the net.
Sources also told IANS that when Sreesanth was arrested from Trident Hotel in south Mumbai's Nariman Point late Wednesday, he was with a woman. Police refused to give more details about her. They also ruled out her involvement in spot fixing.
The three players, who along with 11 bookies have been remanded to five days' police custody, have been lodged in the office of Delhi Police's Special Cell in Lodhi Colony.
While Sreesanth was the only who went without dinner, his two team mates along with the 11 bookies had a hearty meal Thursday night in police custody. But the fast bowler had rajma-chawal as brunch Friday, police sources said.
After he had had his brunch, Sreesanth was questioned by the Delhi Police Commissioner.
Of the 11 bookies, Chandresh Patel, who was arrested from Mumbai's Andheri area, may be the main conspirator in this case, police said. He was into the profession for many years, police added.
Sources also said that Sreesanth was directly approached by cricketer-turned bookie Jiju Janardhan, his distant cousin who has also been arrested. He had played for Kerala U-25 cricket team.
Delhi Police said more teams have been sent to other states to conduct raids.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, meanwhile, congratulated Delhi Police for the investigations.
Asked about the underworld link in the betting racket, he said: "Police is investigating."
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